Ruth Walker: ‘Fudge or a helicopter?’

Ruth Walker. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Ruth Walker. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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WOULD you like to go on adventure? they asked. Oo, that sounds exciting, I said, yes please.

What sort of thing would you like to do? they asked. What are your interests? Your hobbies?

Oh, just surprise me, I said. Show me something I’ve never seen before.

We know just the thing, they said. Leave it with us.

And so a week went by as I wondered idly what my surprise might be, where my magical mystery tour might take me, and praying that it wouldn’t be something like bungee jumping from the Forth Bridge or a guided tour of Edinburgh sewage works. The only clues were that I would be out of the office for a couple of hours – so couldn’t be going too far – and the dress code: warm clothing and trainers.

And so it came to pass that on a cold, grimy Wednesday lunchtime, mist clinging to everything like a terminal case of mould, a black taxi appeared outside Spectrum Towers to whisk me away. This was to be my Adventure Taxi, part of Hostelworld’s genius new rewards package. In hostels all over Britain over the coming months the phone will ring. Don’t ignore it, people. Because whoever picks up that phone will win a surprise trip for themselves and their friends. It could be extreme karting. It could be fudge making. It could even be a helicopter ride. Exciting, isn’t it?

My adventure was none of these things. The taxi inched its way through the Edinburgh traffic, heading north, eventually stopping in a narrow cobbled lane behind an Indian restaurant in Leith, about a mile and a half from my house. At this stage, I swapped a warm, dry Adventure Taxi for a slightly less comfortable Adventure Bike. A bike tour. OK, I can do that, I figured. So what if it was wet. So what if I’d only just dried out from my cycle into work that morning. I like bikes. I like Edinburgh. This would be fun.

So off we went, around the docks, beside the water, along the cycle path, nothing too strenuous, and getting lots of interesting background info on the way. OK, so I already know about Leith’s rich maritime history. And the network of old railway lines. I know about allotments and the city’s architecture too. I’m on my home patch, after all. But it’s fine. It was still better than being stuck in the office. The warm, dry office. With a cup of tea. Maybe a biscuit.

Fuelled by a Stoat’s porridge bar, we persevered for nearly an hour. And it was a lovely cycle. Really, it was. It would have been lovelier had the weather not been so grim. And had I retained any sense of feeling in my fingers. And it might have been more surprising had it not been almost the same route I take for my daily commute. But it was fun all the same.

Surprise me, I’d said. Show me something I’ve never seen before. How could they possibly have known?

I’ll know better next time. Don’t bother surprising me, I’ll say. Just give me the helicopter.